Friday, January 10, 2014

Both and Neither

Almost a week ago, I wrote that this season of my life (and specifically this past year) has been difficult and dry. I’m parched and weary, even when the rain is pouring around me. I am in the middle of a flood and dying of thirst. How is that even possible? I am in what should be one of the most joyful, fulfilling chapters of my life: in a covenant marriage, raising children I longed for, working at a job I prayed for, and being used by a merciful God to speak love to others. And yet, I’m thirsty.

One of the areas of my life where I struggle most right now is parenting. Specifically, it’s in parenting Jackson. I won’t go into all those reasons, because at the end of the day he’s my son and he is loved and wanted. He is a good boy, which I – literally – have to say out loud to him because sometimes he believes he isn’t.

There have been a few blogs I’ve read recently (and will link at the end of this post) that encouraged me and breathed fresh air into my gasping lungs. One I read this morning made me stop and immediately feel the need to write my own thoughts about my role as a mother. One day, Jackson will read this and I want him to understand the WHYs behind the WHATs that he remembers from his childhood. So, this is for him.

I’m your mother, and I live in the tension of opposing roles in your life. I am a blend of those roles: some days I’m 92.3% generous and 7.7% selfish, and also 64.8% irritated while being 35.2% gracious and forgiving. I can also be 12% giggly and 88% exhausted. (Dude, this math thing is hard!) Tomorrow, the math may be completely different as the pendulum swings a different way. Sometimes even I don’t know which way the pendulum will swing, and that’s because you keep me on my toes. I am the buffer between you and a harsh world, and some days require more buff than others.

I’m your defender, but also your accuser. I know your heart so well that when I come across a mess, I jump to conclusions accusations that you probably did it. But in that same breath, I defend your actions because – again – I know your heart so well. I know you likely didn’t make the mess on purpose. You were excited and exuberant about making Daddy a Christmas gift. Or building a fort to surprise Katie when she arrived home from choir. Or making a LEGO creation that can zoom and shoot real! rockets!

I am your friend and your foe. I am both and neither. I am your defense. I will go to the mat for you. I’m your mom, which means I am every opposite rolled into one: defender and accuser. A safe place and a challenger. Soft arms that envelop you while also keeping you at arm’s length when boundaries are needed. The wall you push mightily against for freedom, and the wall you tremble behind for protection. Proactive and reactive. All at the same time.

I do this because I love you. Because it’s good for you (and for me, too). Because it’s my job. And because it was done for me.


Blogs for encouragement:

Finding Joy’s Why Being Mom is Enough: They don’t see you stand in the bathroom and gather your resolve every morning. They don’t see those of you who mother alone without much support. They don’t see the trips to the car back and forth and back and forth. They don’t see you counting to ten a dozen times before noon. They don’t see you look at the bank account and sigh and try to figure out how to make three meals with what’s left in your pantry. They don’t see you walking into the principals office, doctor’s office, friend’s house and defending your child. They don’t see bandages placed on knees. Kisses on foreheads at night. Pillows pushed just the right way and blankets tucked to the perfect demands. Laundry folded and folded and folded. Tears that sting your eyes as your keep going. Dinners prepped over the stove. Times of laughter over silly things. Hair brushed and pulled back into pony tails. Prayers over wandering teens. Prayers over little babes. Nights spent sleeping in a chair holding a sick child. Days where the house is a wreck but you’re reading books. The brave smile on your face when you’re weary. Those things matter. Those things are the little things that add up and and up and up. I say those things are enough. (See also Dear Sweet Mom Who Feels Like She Is Failing)

Jen Hatmaker’s Relational Repair for the Difficult: I will settle something: This cannot be about making her change; this is entirely on me. If I’m waiting for my awesome prayer vigil to slow down the hourly interrogation tsunami, I’ve missed the point. This isn’t about behavior modification, because the second she regresses or holds me hostage in her bizarro time-clock-calendar-countdown-schedule lair, I’ll despair. The only person I can change here is me. I cannot pin my emotional burden on her behavior; that is unfair. Are you tormented waiting for your person to change? That is a fool’s errand. Imagine your person is never going to change. Not one bit. That thing you hate? It’s forever. Those habits and attitudes you can't stand? Make your peace. NOW, you can deal with you. Take someone else’s reform entirely off the table. Do you want to live angry or frustrated or naggy for the rest of your life? Because the fact is, we cannot change anyone else. We are only in control of our reactions, our emotions, and our perspectives. The ball is in our court, and the only one keeping us in Emotional Prison is ourselves.

Hands Free Mama’s The Bully Too Close to Home: If you think that criticizing, belittling, or critiquing yourself will make you smarter, fitter, or more valuable, please reconsider. If you think badgering, bullying, or constantly correcting your child will make him or her more likable, more confident, or more successful, please reconsider. Because the truth is this: It’s hard to love yourself with a bully breathing down your neck. It’s hard to love yourself when the one person who’s supposed love you unconditionally doesn’t. It’s hard to become the person you’re supposed to be when you aren’t allowed to fall down and get back up. If we want our children to become who they’re meant to be, let’s ease up. “Nobody’s perfect” can be two of the most empowering, healing words when said to oneself or to another human being. Let’s stop the ridicule. Let’s stop the relentless pressure. Let’s stop the impossible pursuit of perfection. Only love today, my friends. Only love today.

Cara Joyner’s The Unfiltered Picture We Already Live In: We know this is reality, but occasionally, we forget that everyone else is living in the same reality as us. And when we forget how real everyone else’s lives actually are, we become disillusioned with our own stories. Somehow our lives begin to feel unusually ordinary, and we may buy into this idea that others are living a pinterest board life we dream of but cannot attain. As if they exist in some sort of instagram utopia, while we scrape by in a world of dirty dishes, backed up toilets, and uncooperative children. And from this place, we become discontent. We are all living in the same unfiltered picture; full of earth, tears, sweat, pain, joy, fear, and mystery. Their life is just as gritty and bland as yours. And your life is just as beautiful, complex and exciting as theirs.

Andrea Nair’s Seven Steps to Being Less Hard on Our Kids: One of my mentors the other day asked, “What radio station are you emitting over the air waves? Stop-Annoying-Me? I-don't-have-time-for-this? Life-sucks? or J O Y?” People can feel what we are giving off. It seems to me that children can really pick up the vibes their parents give off. When we are aware of the station our head and body are on, and have a plan to alter that, connections improve all around. (And her tips for Calming Down When Our Kids Are Ramping Up are convicting too.)

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